MSc Admissions Blog

Advice and Information from the MSc Admissions team

The Graduate Recruitment Process in the UK


In this week’s blog Sara Williams, MSc relationship Manager in the Careers team at Cass will be looking at some of the stages students will go through as part of a graduate or internship scheme application process….


Not long now! With only a few weeks to go until we welcome you on campus at Cass and we are all really looking forward to meeting you. This week we’ll be taking a closer look at what you can expect in a graduate or internship recruitment process.

The graduate recruitment process can be long and often daunting for many candidates who have never been through these formal processes before. Here at Cass we’re here to support you through this and have expert advice and guidance for you through each stage of the recruitment process whether you’re looking for an internship, graduate scheme/entry level role or an experienced hire!

A great place to start when applying for graduate roles or internships is by asking yourself….

Does the company take a Competency or Strengths based approach?

You should always do research on a company’s recruitment process before applying to gather as much knowledge as possible to help in your application. One of the things we recommend you research is whether the company has a strengths based or competency based approach to their recruitment.

What is Competency approach?

A Competency-based approach assesses behaviour and previous experience gained in certain situations to measure your competence in in that particular behaviour. They are based round the assumption that past behaviour will predict future performance.

Common competencies that are assessed can include:

  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork
  • Problem Solving
  • Leadership
  • Adaptability
  • Creativity

Recruiters will want to see evidence on your applications, interviews and during assessment centres of the competencies that you are being assessed against. The competencies for a job are often found in the job description or on the recruitment pages of their website.

For more details of how to demonstrate competencies visit:


What is a Strengths based approach?

Barclays, Ernst and Young, Aviva and Standard Chartered (amongst many others) are now using a strengths based approach in their graduate recruitment process.

A strengths based approach is designed to find out what you, as an applicant, enjoy get energy from rather than what you can do (as in a competency based approach).

So according to this approach if you enjoy what you do, you will be better at it, have a positive attitude and put more effort into performing at your best.

Like the competency based approached companies adopting this approach will look for evidence of the strengths they are looking for in candidates through; application forms, first round interviews and assessment centres.

Strengths could include:

  • Credibility
  • Personal responsibility
  • Analyst
  • Organiser

Want to find out more about strengths based recruitment, try these links for further reading:


CV’s, Cover Letters & Application Forms

Often the first point in the graduate recruitment process you will often be asked to complete an application form. While this might appear straight forward some recruiters cite that as little as 1 in 10 are filled in correctly. Common reasons candidates are not successful at this stage include:

  • Errors in basic spelling and grammar
  • Not completing the whole of the application form
  • Not adequately answering application questions/ giving answers not relevant to the question

If you are applying in the UK for roles at any level your CV needs to be in UK Business CV format. Guidelines are available on the induction website under the careers section and we will be running sessions during induction for CV’s and Application forms.

Cover Letters need to be tailored to the ROLE and ORGANISATION you are applying to. Yes this will take time! BUT from experience mass produced cover letters don’t work. This is your chance to make great first impression so don’t waste it! Recruiters will be assessing you for your motivation for the company as well for the role and to see whether you have thought about the skills, behaviour or strengths required for the role. Cover letter workshops will be running from week 1 of term so look out for them and sign up!

For further reading visit:


Psychometric tests

Used by Over 70% of graduate employers, psychometric tests are a common aspect of the graduate and internship recruitment process.

Psychometric testing describes a range of exercises that an employer can use to assess a candidates aptitude or personality.

Ability or aptitude tests measure skills e.g. numerical, verbal. Situational Judgement Tests (SJT) are also increasingly common and assesses judgement required for solving problems in work-related situations.

You may be asked to undertake these before or after you submit your application and some employers ask candidates to re-take them if they are progressed to an assessment centre.

For more information on psychometric testing visit:

Once you are on campus you can gain access to a number of free practice tests and attend our psychometric testing workshop.


Video interviews & first round telephone interviews

The next, common stage, in a recruitment process is usually a first round interview. While each company is different, typically these interviews are between 30-45 minutes and are designed to get an insight into a candidates motivations to work for the company, the role, test their commercial awareness and strengths or competencies needed for the role.

In the past recruiters have commonly used telephone interviews to assess candidates at this stage, however video interviews are replacing the telephone interview and are becoming more common. Companies such as M&G investments, Lloyds banking group and Axa are using video interview to recruit into certain roles.

In a video interview you are not connected ‘live’ to a recruiter like a skype call, rather your responses are recorded so the recruiter can review at a later date/time.

The links below provide further insight into telephone and video interviews:


Assessment centres

Assessment centres are still a popular choice for assessing candidates for many graduate employers. In an assessment centre you will typically go through multiple exercise designed to test either competencies or strengths (depending on their approach) and where candidate can demonstrate key skills for the role they have applied to. Exercises could include:

  • Group exercise
  • Individual analysis exercise
  • Psychometric re-test
  • Interview
  • Case study
  • Presentation
  • Role play exercise
  • Information sessions
  • Social elements e.g. lunch with current graduate trainees


They key to assessment centres is being well prepared, especially if you have never attended one before.

More information on assessment centres can be found on:



Some companies only use interviews in their recruitment process (e.g. Bloomberg) and while you may have already had a telephone or video interview you can still be asked to do a longer interview either as part of an assessment centre or as an individual part of the process. For direct entry and experienced hire roles, interviews will almost certainly play a part in the recruitment process.

Interviews can take a number of different forms and depending on if the employer is using a competency or strengths based approach. Questions types could include:

  • Technical (knowledge from your academic studies)
  • Motivational (why do you want to work for this company?)
  • Commercial Awareness (tell me about a news story that has interested you lately?)
  • Competency (tell me about a time when you worked as part of team that struggled to meet its goal?)
  • Strengths (What gets done on your ‘to do’ list? What never gets done?)
  • Future Career (Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?)
  • General (What do you like to do in your spare time?)

 Being prepared and practicing is key to interview success so learn about the companies process, do your research and practice. We’ll be holding interview workshops on campus and if you have an interview scheduled you can always book a mock interview with a member of our team.

If you would like to read more around what to expect from graduate level and internship interviews some useful links include:


I hope this has provided some food for thought to get you thinking about what might lie ahead if you are looking for a role in the UK. Remember if you have any questions do get in touch at

 In our next blog we’ll be looking at how you can start to prepare for our careers fair which will be in the 19th September.


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